Dungeons & Dragons co-creator Dave Arneson dies

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Friday, April 10, 2009

2006 file photo of Dave Arneson.
Image: ValarClan.

Dave Arneson, co-creator of the first roleplaying game, Dungeons and Dragons, died on Tuesday of cancer, at the age of 61.

A close friend of Arneson, Bob Meyer, reported on April 5 that he had taken a turn for the worse and was admitted to a hospital. Family later confirmed that he was in a facility "where we can focus on keeping him comfortable." Reported at that time, the doctor indicated that he had days to live.

The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design in 1984 inducted Arneson into their Hall of Fame. Pyramid Magazine in 1999 named him as one of The Millennium's Most Influential Persons, "at least in the realm of adventure gaming".

Arneson started out as a wargamer including naval games. He soon developed some for his personal use due to the major publishers' slow release of games. With David Wesley and the other members of the Midwest Military Simulation Association, Arneson developed the basis of modern role-playing games with individual miniatures representing one person and having non-military objectives.

Arneson attended the University of Minnesota as a history student. He was a founder, along with Gary Gygax, of the Castle & Crusade Society as a medieval miniature chapter of the International Federation of Wargamers. With Gygax in 1972, he authored Don't Give Up the Ship!, a naval wargame.

Arneson's Blackmoor was the first role-playing game, a genre in which players describe their characters in thorough detail and can attempt almost any action the character plausibly could. Ernest Gary Gygax, then a close friend of Arneson, worked with him during 1972–73 to develop the extensive set of rules (in this case three volumes) that such a game requires. This became the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons. With his experience with David Wesley, Arneson tried it with fantasy miniatures free style calling his game, Blackmoor. He then latched on Gygax's Chainmail miniature game and Fantasy supplement for resolution of battles. He showed Gygax what he was doing. Gygax got involved and started preparing a set of rules to supplement Chainmail. They shopped the game, Dungeons & Dragons, around to various gaming companies but got turned down. Gygax started a business partnership, Tactical Studies Rules, to publish the game in 1974. The game launched a whole new category in gaming.

Although not involved with rulebooks for later editions of D&D, Arneson did create adventure modules for later editions.


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